EFL Cup is the beginning for Man Utd and Southampton’s end

TOPSHOT - Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho holds up the trophy as Manchester United players celebrate their victory after the English League Cup final football match between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley stadium in north London on February 26, 2017. Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the first major silverware of Jose Mourinho's Manchester United reign and broke Southampton's hearts as the Swedish star's late goal clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory in Sunday's League Cup final. / AFP / Ian KINGTON / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

“The reality is I want more” were Jose Mourinho’s words after the EFL Cup final win over Southampton on Sunday. He chose to say this out of everything else and this was among the least surprising. After all he is a manager who has won 21 trophies in the last 13 years of his career.

He talked about Man United’s third or fourth biggest priority success and also mentioned that the plan is to work on bigger things now. In the press conference after the game, Mourinho said that he is relieved finally. He is relieved about the fact that they have won and also they have defeated Southampton who played very well in the season. He also said that he can delete one more competition from his mind as it is over now.

Mourinho didn’t seem overwhelmed after the victory even though he insisted that he was. His glum expression suggested that he was about to embark on his humility acts while praising the unlucky saints. Another reason was because he knew that this was rather a beginning for them and not an end.

The victory was just a staging post for Manchester United but it would have been the greatest moment in 41 years for Southampton. They defeated United in FA Cup in the year 1976 and the win would have represented the pinnacle for many players. They had fairly remarkable but relatively low-key achievements since there return to Premier League in 2012 and the EFL Cup victory would have provided them a tangible reward.

This victory has brought back the winning mentality at Old Trafford but their last major domestic trophy didn’t do much good to the manager. Louis Van Gaal’s sacking news leaked even before he could put down the FA Cup down on his own post match press conference.

Van Gaal lacked consistency and achievement in the league and Mourinho needs to improve Man United from here. United have maintained a comforting constant position since past few months and they have been in the sixth in place since November despite being unbeaten during this span. This shows how bad the start of the season was for them and how relatively mediocre the rest of the division is.

Mourinho’s season has been a transitional one for Manchester United. They have spent a lot on their squad and even though they have been depending on a 35 year old to bail them out of questionable positions, if they continue with their league form they will improve their position. The team is still a work in progress and with the Champions League qualification and atleast one trophy, it will turn out to be a decent first season for Mourinho.

It wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that Claude Puel’s side deserved something more than an 87th minute defeat on Sunday. Southampton’s neat summary might be described as a dominating a game but not winning it. They have lost six games out of the eight games in the league. At this point of time, Southampton’s season is about treading water and for them it was virtually the end. But for Manchester United it could be another beginning.

In an era of supreme egos, Man United grateful for Lingard’s presence

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Manchester United have seen their successes with some of the outstanding performances by the stars but the club would have been nowhere without their squad players. They play without any fuss and step in at any moment and perform beautifully just the way they are asked to. Managing the squad players is not an easy task and some club fail to maintain the balance with the squad. This requires a perfect combination of temperament and talent. Jose Mourinho may be grateful to Jesse Lingard for his presence in this era of supreme egos.

Lingard’s style of playing is sometimes significant of the roaming Swedish winger, Jesper Blomqvist who provided the much-needed thrust in the final third for Man United. Lingard did not have an extremely remarkable season but he definitely had a good one. It was above average and could be called as a 7 out of 10 performance. But a 7 is what United need most often.

Lingard was introduced at half time against St. Etienne in the Europa League. Marouane Fallaini was looking cumbersome against the visitor’s fleet-foot midfield and that is when Mourinho called for Lingard. The England international’s dynamic drive helped his team to bag a 3-0 victory which is a score as deceptive as Old Trafford will see all season. United could have conceded a late equaliser before Zlatan made the game. Lingard helped to stretch and spread the play before that point of the game as Rashford made the breakthrough for United’s crucial second.

This year has seen a lot of low points for Lingard. He showed a poor performance in the first half against Manchester City at home in the derby loss in the Premier League. This was a game where City seemed to play a game from the realms of science fiction. He also had a struggling match against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. This year can be summed up for him in one line- ‘his execution is not as good as his work ethic’.

It is difficult to see how it could go wrong for Lingard as he offers intelligent movement of the ball and a considerable speed on the counter attack. He has scored the most spectacular goal in the recent history of Man United that claimed the club’s first trophy of the post Sir Ferguson era, the 2015-16 FA Cup. It was rare moment when Lingard took the centre stage.

There were a great number of obstacles before him and there may be one or two instances where he could not believe that it would all work out despite his robust self-belief. Now Lingard has a value in the squad that is more than the numbers and goes beyond the pitch. He has been vital in Pogba’s settling in on his return to Old Trafford. He is a great stand in when Juan Mata is withdrawn. With United’s great success this year and next year, Lingard’s name might not be on the billboard but he will definitely be a proud part of the supporting cast in bold letters.

 

Chelsea vs. Man United is fascinating because of Mourinho

 

jose-mourinho-manchester-united_uwfhfs8ahy3u1lwegk9f3j91aNon-league quarterfinal between Sutton United and Lincoln City has caught some imagination but the most tempting tie in the last eight of the FA Cup is definitely between Chelsea and Man United. The tie is overflowing with intrigue as it is the Blue vs. Red, Conte vs. Mourinho and Costa vs. Ibrahimovic.

The clubs have been competing against each other since centuries and most of the memories are not in favour of Chelsea supporters. In 1994, the Blues faced a damp and Glenn Hoddle’s team fell 4-0 to Manchester United in the Wembley rain. After two years, Ruud Gullit nodded Chelsea to the lead in the semi finals but Andy Cole’s equaliser and David Beckham’s winning goal turned the table for the Blues.

In the year 1998, Chelsea were the Cup holders and Man United were the reigning Champions when they met at Stamford Bridge for their third round. United took a lead of 5-0 until stupendous chip by Graeme Le Saux over Peter. The matched ended with a score of 5-3 announcing a victory for the visitors.

After the replay in 1999, Man United were victorious again. Chelsea had to wait for eight long years to take revenge in the FA Cup. In 2013 they contested for the quarter final and attained a comeback with the score 2-0 after an amazing shot from Eden Hazard at Old Trafford.

Apart from the huge stature and ambition of the two clubs, another fascinating element in the next instalment of the FA Cup rivalry is because of Jose Mourinho. His association with the Londoners indicate that any reunion will be heavily scrutinised. His actions and words in the recent past have shown that the build up is going to get more intense.

Mourinho has been mocking Chelsea’s overly defensive way of playing and he also quoted that ‘they score one goal and they win’. He recently commented that counter-attacking football has now become a form of art and not a way to win points. He believes that his work at Chelsea was not well appreciated by those of outside Stamford Bridge but his attitude towards Conte’s squad is hypothetical and incorrect.

Mourinho should feel proud about his achievements in Chelsea as his winning mentality was the reason for the club to turn into champions. He also laid the foundation for Chelsea’s Champions League triumph in 2012.

Chelsea has bagged more goals than Mourinho’s squad this campaign. This indicates that his thoughts about his former team’s performance is unjustifiable and shows the negativity surrounding Manchester United. This sort of attitude was not on show during Chelsea’s 4-0 rout of Man United in October.

The fans of Blues still hold a special place for Mourinho as they believe that he had a huge contribution in the team’s success and at times they defend his most nonsensical actions. May be he is just upset about the fact that Conte is receiving the same reverence that was once meant for him.

Mourinho had a warm welcome at Stamford Bridge during his visit in October. The FA quarter final in March will decide if the situation remains the same or the heat will become more uncomfortable for the visiting manager.

Revived Hazard has impressed but has more levels to reach

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Eden hazard is definitely having an excellent season. During Chelsea’s 2014-15 title winning campaign Hazard created fear into Premier League defences.  He disappeared in the last season but returned with his playful style across England. He bagged nine goals in 21 Premier League matches and out of which four were from the whole of last season. The statistics show the Belgian’s transformation.

The slender tally of three assists officially attributed him by the Premier League which was pretty surprising. But he has had an enormous impact on the Chelsea team given his involvement in almost every attacking move. His influence cannot be measured by conventional metrics. His tricks for Chelsea to win a game consist of his movement off the ball, little flicks around the corner, one-twos with team members in tough situations and his ability to command the attention of many opponents to free up space for others. These tricks cannot be put on a stat sheet but they are as important as they are unplayable.

But the feeling that there is a lot more to come from Hazard still remains. In his player of the year campaign in 2014-15, he virtually dominated all the 38 games that he had started.  He was the crucial component of Chelsea when the team was feasting on their opponents before Christmas. Hazard was also the driving force behind the team’s grind to the title in the New Year.

Although in the final few months at the club, Hazard had eventually fallen out with Jose Mourinho. Mourinho relied upon him more than any other player due to his knack for turning games in Chelsea’s favour.

Hazard has showed some mesmerising performance this season. He helped Antonio Conte with some dizzying attacking play that many of the teams found difficult to live with. But in few games he fell short of the standards he created for himself. But even the greatest football players have seen their off days.

Hazard has not been very effective in the meantime. In the 3-0 win at Leicester he played as a false nine and played an integral role in dismantling the defence of the reigning Premier League Champions. But it all got lost between the less impactful displays at Tottenham in the 2-0 loss and last Saturday’s 2-0 win where there was a lot of jinking and darting runs from him but very little end product.

Hazard will not be staying out of the limelight for too long. The 26 year old has rarely been out of his form in the present times. In the course of his five seasons in the club he had his points of lull but they were all considered as the calm before the storm. He suffered a slight dip at the beginning with no sores at all but then he came back with five nets in his next four games. The next two League fixtures of Chelsea are potentially crucial contests against Arsenal and Liverpool. This is the perfect time for Hazard to show his potentials and get back with his goal scoring groove.

 

Rooney’s record breaking goal at Bogey ground of United

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A tribute night was held by England’s Football Writers’ Association at London’s Savoy Hotel for Wayne Rooney. He finishes the weekend smiling as coach Jose Mourinho gives him an off for Monday training.

Rooney was the Guest of Honour and he is also making headlines due to his record breaking 250th goal for Manchester United. His friends and colleagues were also present there to praise him and be a part of his success. Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman of the club was also present who contributed in making Rooney the highest earner at United after he negotiated the contract in 2013.

A video collage consisting of some of the exceptional goals by Rooney was played. The former England manager Roy Hodgson made speeches. Fletcher talked about the Friendship with Rooney and also said he is a team player and a popular captain.

Rooney has emerged as a more mature player since his first interview when he was a teenager. He is now aware about his responsibilities being associated with United and as the England captain. He must continue to progress if he wants to be a successful media analyst like his former teammate Gary Neville or fellow Liverpudlian Jamie Carragher.

320 goals in 741 professional games for Everton, Manchester United and England leave no doubt in Rooney’s achievement as a player. According to Hodgson, Rooney was ultra-professional and he never missed a training session. He can create more headlines with time as he is still 31 only.

Rooney is going to be remembered as one of the greatest players of United in the history. Even though he said that he is not going to play for any other premier league team, but it is unsure that how long he will be playing for Old Trafford when he has more league games on the bench than the pitch.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still producing top class performances at the age of 35 and Rooney might emulate him or take the example of Ryan Giggs who played for Man United at 40.

He doesn’t have the swiftness of his youth but he is capable of some spectacular performances. He proved that with a fine goal in United’s last defeat which was 17 games ago at Fenerbahce. Saturday’s record breaking goal at Stoke was his second league goal of this season. He showed that he can still be the best player of his side even though he stumbles against the big teams at times.

United were heading for a defeat on Saturday after Juan Mata’s own goal on the 19th minute. Mata missed the chance to equalise but Antonio Valencia was strong and Henrikh Mkhitaryan glided forward with balletic poise. Rooney was brought on when no breakthrough came and Mourinho even switched to a 4-4-2 formation but none of it worked for them.

Rooney took over the free kick won by United at the 94th minute and the ball flew in keeping the unbeaten run intact. He provided a high point to a day that was about to become bleak for them but it has become United’s Achilles heel.